Favorite home-brew special abilities?

Anyone have any favorite home-brew special abilities or hacks of those in the rulebook?

Some of my crew’s favorites:

To reward people for helping the team…

Team Player: You gain an additional xp trigger: You made a tangible sacrifice to help the crew (spent stress to support a teammate, took harm for a teammate, used personal items/coin/connections, etc.)

We found the Savage Cutter ability a little confusing so made our own version:

Savage Terror: When you unleash physical violence, it’s especially frightening. On a successful violent physical action, lower-tier opponents are frightened, granting you +1 effect on your next action against them. Higher-tier opponents may or may not become frightened (GM discretion).

Our crew has two Tinker oriented players so we liked making a way for them to share knowledge.

Design Translator: Can convert personal long-term recipe/design projects into “Crew Projects.” These projects are 4 ticks larger than the personal clock they are based on. Any crew member may contribute ticks to the clock. Any crew member who contributes at least three ticks is considered to also know the recipe once it is completed (they do NOT have to learn the recipe on their own).

We’ve made up a bunch more that we need to playtest. We’ve put all of ours, all of the book’s, and any other creative-commons ones we’ve found in this airtable. Feel free to use/copy/edit at will :).

Non-Canon: https://airtable.com/tblNKZPU952uIXrhb/viwQffc7nB6QrSDFA?blocks=hide

All: https://airtable.com/tblNKZPU952uIXrhb/viww0YXVUlKZK2kcO?blocks=hide

What are your favorite ones? May I place them in this database for my team and others to use (with attribution)?

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With my group’s help, we made this one:

Populist: When you work on a long term project to improve relations with Labor & Trade or Citizenry factions, you get +1 result level to your roll (a 1-3 becomes a 4/5, etc.). When you take this, improve the relationship with one faction by one.

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Sounds cool! How has it played out? What have you liked about it?

You can find about 714 home-brew special abilities here :slight_smile:
https://itch.io/jam/unusual-suspects-a-playbook-jam/entries

2 Likes

It’s only been in play a couple of sessions. It’s been used in a couple of downtime actions, since that’s it’s primary goal, but the DM also gave me increased effect on an in-score roll in Nightmarket, where the character was making a Sway roll to the nearby merchants to not give in to the Bluecoats’ bullying them. I’ve been pleased with it.

I knew about that repository but totally forgot about looking to it as a source of special abilities. Thanks!!!

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I love special abilities that are careful with their wording so as to avoid the many pitfalls of Blades benefit design. But that also means I don’t love a lot of homebrew special abilities! I mean I really enjoy the way Blades abilities are written because they contain a very particular blend of clarity, simplicity, and respect that is unmatched in other games. But that also means it’s difficult to write abilities for this game. Some things I noticed:

  • Their wording can be taken at face value. There are no Gotcha! moments and rarely does the detail text say anything that the surface level reading of the ability does not. Just simple language and clear, actionable benefits.
  • They never unequivocally grant benefits that can be permanently taken away (like gear or friends) by a consequence the GM might need to inflict. Like “+1 effect” isn’t done anymore with actions since a 1-3 usually means there was zero effect, and 4/5 can mean reduced effect, which later begs the question: does this trigger after the GM has accounted for all factors and before the roll outcome, or after all of that?_ (I know the answer, but players won’t always know because the game is not built to allow such a broad bonus). Instead consider pointing to the factors, which the GM can only evaluate once even when an ability boosts one.
  • They never contain triggers that cannot be met. Like an opponent being higher tier during an action roll (Tier is a rating used to measure factions as a whole, not individual NPCs)

In other words, ability design is tough!
As an example, here are some of my favorite homebrew concoctions, the current text for which is the result of countless hours across multiple years of consideration and playtest:

Street Code: You gain an additional XP trigger: When you uphold the street code of honor despite difficulty or danger. When you duel someone (one on one) to the death, also mark crew XP.

Catch Me If You Can: You may expend your special armor to resist a consequence from detection or security measures, or to push yourself for a feat of escape or stealth.

Driven: You gain an additional XP trigger: When you get away from or stand up to “the Man.” Due to fierce ambition or harsh experience, you get +1 stress box.

Linguist: You can understand bits and pieces of any dialect, even those you never learned. You can mark 1 stress to hold a conversation despite language barriers.

2 Likes

@SaveMeJebu5 thank you! Your observation about the careful way the abilities are written is very helpful. I need to review our homebrew ones to make them better (suggestions welcome!). I love your home-brew ones.

Clarifying question: Does driven cost 3 upgrades instead of 1 because of the Stress box component?

Also, may I include your special abilities (with attribution) in my open-source collection?